Seagulls Over Burwash Article – Heathfield February 2018

Too Tight To Call, The Cup and History Making

“Don’t bother looking at the league tables until Christmas” is the conventional wisdom regarding the importance of a team’s position in a league table. Before Christmas a win can raise a team up numerous places while a loss can plunge the team back down the table. By Christmas, the halfway point through the football season, the theory goes that the league will have stabilised, the best teams will have pulled away from the rest at the top and a couple of the worst teams will be adrift at the bottom whilst the rest will be finding their rightful positions in mid-table. Well, Christmas has been and gone and, whilst Manchester City have run away at the top and the next five places are filled with the usual ‘big six’ suspects, the likely order of the rest of the Premier League table come the end of the season is little clearer than on day one of the season. As I write, Brighton and Hove Albion are comfortably mid-table in 12th position, just seven point behind the 2016 champions Leicester City in 8th place. However, such is the competitive nature of the bottom half of the table, they are only three points from the relegation zone. As it stands, with 16 games to play, any three of twelve clubs, including Brighton, could be relegated.

Given the financial advantages that the ‘big six’ clubs have over the other fourteen clubs in the Premier League and the consequential disparity in the quality of the playing staff, any points taken against them by the other teams is considered an unexpected bonus. The primary aim for all clubs that are attempting to avoid relegation is to beat the teams around them. Each game between teams outside of, say, the top eight league positions is a six-pointer, i.e. the winner gains three points while preventing the opponents getting three points – total six points (that’s football logic for you!). Consequently, although there are only three game to be played during the month, February will be a crucial month for the Albion’s survival hopes. They have two home games, against West Ham and Swansea, and a trip to Stoke. All three of these clubs are below Brighton in the league, with Swansea currently bottom of the pile. Wins against these teams will prise the Albion away from the relegation scrap before the final run-in commences in April and May. Given that the last four games include matches against Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Liverpool, Brighton and Hove Albion need to be safe by Easter to avoid an uncomfortably tense end to the season.

Brighton and Hove Albion kicked off their 2017 FA Cup campaign recently with a third round home tie against our ‘dear friends’ from the other end of the A23, Crystal Palace. As a thank you for their support over the past year, Seagulls Over Burwash gave their season ticket regulars a free ride to this game and for those who travelled to the Amex on that cold January Monday night, it was well worth the trip. Brighton won the game 2 – 1, thanks to a Glenn Murray winner three minute from the final whistle. The next round is to be played away at Middlesbrough on 27th January, and, by the time you are reading this, you will probably know the result. So, (a) we looked forward to the fifth round of the cup hoping for victory to keep that winning habit going, or (b) it’s a good job we are out of the cup so we can concentrate on the important business of securing our survival in the Premier League. Please delete as appropriate.

Apart from recording another victory over Palace and exacting revenge for Brighton’s last FA Cup meeting with them back in 1976 (two replays, a retaken penalty, a dodgy ref, managerial tantrums and the beginning of the Brighton/Palace ‘rivalry’), the FA Cup match on 8th January made history for another reason. It was the first time in English professional football that a video assistant referee (VAR) was used. This involves a fourth official, the VAR, watching the game on video screens which view the play from multiple angles. If there is a game changing error made by the referee, the VAR can intervene and request the referee to reverse his decision. Such interventions are restricted to goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. A good example of when the VAR could intervene came when Murray scored at the end of the Palace cup tie. The ball was headed across the goal face and Murray bundled it in at the far post. The referee awarded the goal but the Palace players claimed that it had gone in off his arm. Had this been the case, or if he had been in an off-side position, the VAR would have requested the referee to disallow the goal. Fortunately for the Albion, it hadn’t hit his arm and the goal stood. Such video evidence has been used successfully in rugby, cricket and tennis and has prevented many a ‘human error’ mistake without disrupting the flow of the games. Finally the intransigent football authorities are catching up and, hopefully, we have seen the last of blatant cheating (think Jurgen Klinsmann’s world cup dive or Thierry Henry handball goal that prevented Ireland reaching the World Cup finals) and obvious game-defining refereeing mistakes (such as Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany in the 2010 World Cup).

With the football season careering towards the run-in and the Premier League positions being too close to call, all of the Albion’s remaining home games are likely to be sold out. If you do not have a season ticket and would like to go to a game, please contact the football club early in order to secure a ticket. Similarly, if you would like to travel to the matches on the Seagulls Over Burwash coaches, please let us know as early as possible so that we can fit you on. We always welcome new faces!

For further information on joining Seagulls Over Burwash and details of forthcoming events, meetings or coach travel, please visit our website at www.seagullsoverburwash.co.uk or email me at simon.forster@seagullsoverburwash.co.uk. Alternatively, contact SOB Chairman, Teskey O’Neil, on 01580 860625 or tesbar80@btinternet.com.

 

Simon Forster